The presumptive validity of equality has become an aphorism: everyone is of equal potentiality, any divergence in outcomes is due exclusively to environmental factors. It is an article of faith in the Church of Latter Day Leftist; adherents must mindlessly repeat the mantra when bidden to demonstrate their full internalization of the dogma. Nevertheless, equality doggerel cannot withstand even the most casual scrutiny. Once the data emerges, the entire house of cards collapses upon itself. There is nothing that causes scales to fall from eyes faster than a face to face meeting with standardized test data. The Left, knowing full well that perfect information is the enemy of good progs, has descended upon standardized testing in an effort to discredit them and remove them from use lest they yield results. . . incompatible with the narrative of equality.
Standardized tests are regularly maligned in memelike fashion: “standardized tests don’t accurately gauge subject matter mastery!” “You can’t prove comprehension based on test performance!” Naturally, any mention of viable alternatives is always curiously absent from these discussions. Nonetheless, the one opposing argument that has always managed to garner the most traction is the perennially persuasive “standardized tests aren’t tests of intelligence, and to presume that they are is racist!” line of argumentation. Really just a portmanteau of two far less sophisticated arguments, (1) tests are bad and (2) everything be wacis,’ the synthesis imbues these two bald & brain-dead assertions with a certain gravitas.
Standardized testing is under assault because it demonstrates that there are very real and very appreciable differences between groups as it pertains to educational performance and fundamentally, to intelligence. We are not equal, different groups have differing capabilities, inequality will never be rooted out because it is the fundamental condition of man: widespread acceptance of these obvious truths would present a direct challenge to the prevailing narrative of “we’d all be equal but for da white man.”
It was once understood that standardized tests serve a dual function: there was a character building component and a diagnostic component. Character building, as the looming spectre of these exams encouraged children to apply themselves to a task at hand, to identify gaps in knowledge and to work on filling those gaps until mastery was achieved and thorough understanding was secured, and to occasionally deal with the body blow of failure. Diagnostic, in that these exams provided school administrators with the data necessary to track students and provide them with curricula more tailored to their abilities and needs. Standardized testing demonstrated the importance of – having standards. Nowadays, the mere suggestion of the existence of objective standards for anything rustles jimmies to the moon and back. Standardization is unfaaaaaair because not everyone learns in the same manner! But yet, we are all still equal. It’s fascinating how that works, really.
Historically, it was once a given that those who reached and occasionally exceeded the baseline standards set by these exams were naturally the more intelligent. Those individuals would be rightfully slated for greater challenges and more opportunity, as they would be the only ones in possession of the raw g necessary to capitalize upon them. It was tacitly understood that the native English speaker who struggled to achieve a score of 55% on the state English test was probably not the brightest bulb in the pack, and that the kind and considered approach to his education would be to properly track him and obtain for him the help that he required. The response to test underperformance would not be to scrap the test entirely; it would be to use the data generated to ensure that all students received the most ability appropriate education. In an age of untruths and envy, however, everything must be reduced to the lowest common denominator in order to accommodate the dregs at the expense of the cream.
If we are being completely honest with ourselves, we must admit that standardized tests are crucial because they actually gauge intelligence in subtle ways. I have never been a fan of the “read and regurgitate” model of education that has been adopted by the American public school system, and I am even less of a fan of the federalization of education that occurred as a result of No Child Left Behind. I believe that the law has only served to strip education of its erstwhile local character and instructors of their autonomy. Nevertheless, it is clear that what standardized tests actually test for are such things as pattern recognition, predictive capabilities, the ability to make connections between seemingly discrete things, memorization/recall, extemporaneous problem solving abilities, the ability to reproduce a set of results under test conditions, and general cognition. These capabilities are all functions of intelligence, even if the tests themselves are only designed to probe for subject matter facility. The more intelligent one is, the likelier it becomes that one will excel at standardized tests because they are generally (surreptitiously) g-loaded undertakings. As intelligence is largely hereditary and unevenly distributed across peoples, education is ineffectual in generating intelligence where none exists. This also means that certain groups will by and large never excel at test taking or academic pursuits more generally.
Given these stark realities, the rise of the anti-testing zeitgeist was an inevitability, propelled by individuals willing to do whatever it took to obscure the mental limitations of their pet populations in order to continue to be able to plausibly assert that poor test performance is actually the result of the legacy of slavery, institutional oppression, poverty, culturally biased tests, or [insert flavor of the week buzzword here] to be remedied only by continual gibs transferences. But the answer is really far more simple, and rather elegant in its simplicity: some people just aren’t as smart as others. Intelligence will enable test takers to power through material that they may not completely understand by forging conceptual links that less intelligent test takers with similar handicaps are incapable of forging.
Consider for example the infamous SAT problem presented in Herrnstein & Murray’s 1994 The Bell Curve. The question was from the now-phased out Analogies portion of the exam:
a. envoy: embassy
b. martyr: massacre
c. oarsman: regatta
d. referee: tournament
e. horse: stable
The model, as we know is a is to b as c is to d. To answer this question correctly, the successful test taker would first have to accurately characterize the nature of the relationship between runner and marathon and then select the corresponding relationship from the list of options that followed. The answer is obviously c. oarsman: regatta. Anti-testers would (incorrectly, in my view) assert that it would be impossible for an inner city black kid to know what a regatta is and thus would be likelier to come to an incorrect solution. Voila: these tests are culturally biased and thus irrelevant. However, I contend that it is not necessary to know what a regatta is in this instance. The intelligent kid would accurately perceive that the basic relationship between runner and marathon is that a runner competes in a marathon (or does a marathon).
The more intelligent test taker would then methodically disqualify the options that clearly do not mimic the competitor-competition relationship proffered in the example. Thus, even while the test taker may not necessarily know what a regatta is, he knows for certain that an envoy does not compete in an embassy, that a martyr does not compete in a massacre, that a referee does not compete in a tournament and that a horse does not compete in a stable. As it turns out, the inner city tends to have high concentrations of individuals largely incapable of employing such rationalist approaches.
The goal behind the anti-testing movement is not cultural sensitivity, or concern for students. The goal is the complete obliteration of standards and objectivity. Their goal is ultimately the denial of intelligence as a concept.